Nokia D211 GPRS/WLAN Card
C. Hague | Guest Reviews
The Handheld PC platform should be the ideal solution for staying in contact wherever you are. The larger displays and convenient keyboards have the potential for a great web-browsing experience. The Nokia D211 enhances this experience by allowing you to use an effective GPRS connection, or have a reliable WiFi (802.11b) connection, and even send text-messages, all from a single pc-card.
What's In The Box?
The D211 arrives with a quick-start guide, a protective case and a driver/documentation CD, all packaged into a neat plastic box.
The card itself is slightly longer than a standard 802.11b pc card, but still fits snugly into most HPCs. A single slot on the card provides a space for a SIM card, which allows GPRS connectivity. The card is surprisingly light, which makes it the ideal travelling companion for your HPC.
The protective case is made of durable plastic and can be used to protect the D211 when not in use. This is a useful addition, and can enhance the lifespan of the card. It can also be used for storing other pc cards when the D211 is using the slot.
The D211 CD contains drivers for PocketPC 2000, PocketPC 2002, Windows 98 (and higher versions) and HPC2000. Unfortunately, Nokia never created drivers for CE 2.xx (HPC Professional) or CE 1.xx. Drivers for HPC2000 are available from the Hardware Compatibility List. There is no official support for CE.net, although the PocketPC drivers are rumoured to work.
Installation runs smoothly and is the standard ActiveSync method, although CAB files are available if needed. The driver and interface software take approximately 500KiB of RAM. The driver cannot be installed to removable storage.
The main interface is in the form of a tray icon, with an innovative Alt-Tap menu that gives almost instant access to all functionality. This menu can be used to connect either GPRS or WiFi, or to call up a more detailed interface. This level of functionality from such a simple menu is a real advantage to this card.
The D211 has two methods of setting up your connection, which are both clear and easy to use. The first method is to use the cards “Easy Connect” function. This is basically the D211s, very effective, answer to zero-configuration. It works with both GPRS and WiFi and is generally successful at creating a connection.
The second method of setting up a connection is to do it manually. This is much easier than it sounds, simply enter the settings given by your provider into the D211s settings applet. The layout is clear and easy to understand. You can also manually enter custom IP addresses and so on in the standard Windows CE control panel.
Once a connection is correctly setup it can be saved into a Profile. This allows you to change back to it at a moments notice. This is surprisingly time saving, and can be used when changing from GPRS to WiFi, or moving from one network to another.
The Manager Window provides useful information about the current connection, such as the transfer speeds (both upstream and downstream) and the amount of data sent during the current session. This can be useful is you are using a pay-as-you-go (prepay) GPRS simcard, as it allows you to work out how much the session has cost.
Not only that, Nokia thought to include a SMS (text message) application. This allows you to send and receive text-messages on your HPC. Composing messages is made far easier when using your HPCs keyboard, and you can even access your SIM cards internal phone book and stored messages. The ability to SMS is an excellent addition to an already feature packed card and ranks it above many other data cards. Unfortunately, the card doesn't support voice calls.
The D211 seems surprisingly efficient for a GPRS card. When using the standard Jornada 6xx/7x0 battery the card can maintain an active connection for just under two hours. This is considerably longer than would be possible when using Bluetooth and a cell phone for the same effect. Maintaining a WiFi connection consumes power slightly faster, but still gives about an hour of usage.
A useful power saving function of the Nokia software is the ability to stop the card without removing it. This allows you to shut the card off (in a similar fashion to the Windows CE card battery warning), without having to remove it from the device, which may inconvenient. The card can be reactivated by relaunching the manger window. As with most PCMCIA cards the D211 shuts off automatically when Windows CE is suspended, and re-activates when the device is resumed.
Depending on your provider and current call cell it should be possible to attain a stable GPRS connection of up to 30-40Kbps. The D211 seems able to provide this when needed, although speed drops after prolonged usage. The card also supports HSCSD connections, which can yield marginally faster connections.
WiFi works as fast as can be expected on the Handheld platform, and seems to be mainly limited by the speed of the device. The card should be able to connect at up to 11Mbps when in a compatible device (such as a laptop or the newer HPCs).
The D211 is a very reliable card. The driver and software appear to be very stable, and so far the card has never dropped a connection when switching between transmitter cells. It handles weak GPRS signals well and can cope with relatively poor WiFi signals.
This card retails at around £35-£45 second hand and £80-£120 new (often available on contract for a subsidised amount). It provides a good balance of connectivity, size and price. To conclude, if you want to get connected anywhere, and at a reasonable price, then this card is for you.
Windows 98SE+ for host PC use, StrongARM/XScale or MIPS running HPC2000
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